Green's back in orange

Aaron Green began his first practice as a University of Tennessee basketball staffer on the baseline at Stokely Athletics Center last Wednesday afternoon, grinning as he watched All-American Chris Lofton drain one 3-pointer after another.

"I'd say Lofton's probably a little better shooter than I was," quipped Green, a former Vol who recently joined the staff as a student assistant.

Green was no slouch, however. He hit 34.5 percent of his 3-pointers between 1995 and 1999, helping the Vols reach the NCAA Tournament in '98 and '99. His 99 career 3-pointers ranks sixth on UT's all-time list. He also ranks 11th in career steals with 115.

Following his college career, Green accepted the coaching reins at Cleveland High School. He guided the Blue Raiders to a 155-72 record and six 20-win seasons in seven years at the school. So why would he leave such a great situation to take a low-paying grad assistant job?

Basically, he relished the opportunity to return to his alma mater and learn from Tennessee head man Bruce Pearl.

"I've heard Coach Pearl say, 'You're only as good as the people you've learned from.' I want the opportunity to get experience working under one of the best in the country in Coach Pearl and his staff," Green said. "I want to get my feet wet in college coaching, and I don't feel like there's a better opportunity than with him and the staff here at Tennessee."

Growing up in Sweetwater, Green was a lifelong Vol fan who got to live his childhood dream by playing for Tennessee. He enjoyed the experience so much that he has been looking to return to campus ever since.

"I obviously have a lot of pride and fond memories here at the university," he said. "What Coach Pearl has done here with the basketball program is just unreal. I made it pretty clear the last several years that if there was an opportunity for me to get involved with this staff, I'd love to talk to him. Really, it's something I've pursued the last several years."

Although the new job represents a significant drop in income, Green believes the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

"I'm taking a graduate position, so I'm not making very much," he conceded. "I'm basically making a sacrifice but I think it's going to be well worth it for the experience and the things I can learn as a basketball coach."

This is a great time to be joining Tennessee's program. The Vols have eight of their top nine players back from a team that went 24-11 last season. With the addition of two quality transfers, they are being projected as a possible Final Four team for 2007-08.

"The talent here, on paper, is really good," Green said. "I know expectations are high, which is good. Coach Pearl is really good at managing that. Without a doubt, it's one of the most talented teams of the last several years. It's going to be exciting."

Wearing a UT coaching shirt and a big grin, Green was clearly elated to be back in the program where he experienced so many thrills as a player. That orange shirt clearly means a lot to him.

"Without a doubt," he said. "It's something you can't explain. I'm a Tennessee Vol ... have been since I was little. Having an opportunity to coach here is a dream come true ... as it was when I played."

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